Eat at Home

Eat At Home

I’ve decided to forgo the 31 day challenge this year. Try as I might, I can’t seem to figure out how I would write 31 posts in a row without losing my mind. That’s not to say I’m not doing a challenge. I do love my challenges, as you know.

The other day I went to pay bills and discovered a sizable chunk of money missing. Sound the alarms! It took me seconds to figure out that the swim team check from this summer that I thought had cleared, didn’t. It hit the bank (why do people sit on their checks forever?) and thanks to my oversight–I really don’t know how I missed noticing it didn’t clear–along with a tuition bill, an insurance bill, and two emergency room visit bills on top of our regular bills, I was left googling how much oregano to put in stone soup.

I shuffled around some savings (killed me) and added up how much we spent the month before in any and all dining outside the house down to the penny. I was hoping that if we cut outside dining for a month we could recoup some of what I had to pull out of savings.

Some?! Some! I actually thought I could recoup some of what I pulled out of savings. If we didn’t eat out for one month, including coffees, I could put back what I took out and have enough left over to sponsor a village of children the next time a plane full of bloggers lands in a developing country. I’d be drinking a decaf salted caramel frappuccino with soy (hold the whip) while I did it, too.

Later that night, as I was shucking corn for dinner (never thought that sentence would ever make it to the blog), I decided I should just go ahead and do it: eat at home for the next 31 days. We’d save money, maybe lose weight, and definitely eat healthier. In essence, I’m going to try to create more intentional dining habits. Make my meal choices more useful/beautiful. Growing up, going out was rare. McDonald’s was such a treat we’d squeal when we’d get it and I remember we weren’t allowed to go to Wendy’s because it was too expensive. (!) My mom would have a heart attack if she knew what most people spent per month in coffee alone.

No, I haven’t really thought this through too much. If I do, I’ll find reasons not to do it. This is the same approach I took with the 31 days of William Morris 2 years ago, and I really think that’s what allowed me to make it through the month. I didn’t think enough about what I was doing to panic.

One thing I am doing differently this time around is that I won’t be blogging about my food adventures. I already do WMP and on Mondays do 365. If I add one more thing I’ll start to feel like things are too scheduled around here. So, instead I’m just going to post pictures of what I’m eating on my instagram account and use the hashtag #eatathome to keep track of the pictures. (Thanks to Andrea for the name and to Jessica for the idea to keep it on instagram.)

So am I participating in Nester’s 31 days this year? I don’t think so–I’m pretty sure the rules say you have to post on a blog, and instagram isn’t a blog.

Anyone who wants to join me is more than welcome to do so! You can make up your own rules. For example, my husband travels almost 50% of the time and is gone most of the month of October. He sure won’t be eating food prepared at home. My dreams of 100% family involvement just aren’t going to happen any time soon, but something is better than nothing. The Mister is my only qualifier, but you can make yours whatever you like.

This is crazy. But I thought William Morris was crazy and I thought walking every day was the craziest of all, so what do I know?

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. says

    I wouldn’t manage 31 daily posts and stay sane, I’m sure. That said, I did used to blog ahead to ‘cover’ my holidays, so I came close. But that was then. Eating at home is not that hard unless you have picky eaters, in which case I wouldn’t know what to do; knowing me, I’d let them starve. We have a basic ‘recipe’ here for when we aren’t much inspired and haven’t planned ahead. It involves a couple of tablespoons of oil in which a large diced onion is cooked (I love caramelised onion). Then we throw in two or three cups of chopped / frozen veggies and stir fry them a while. I put in some ‘orange or green’ stuff – my thoughts on herbs and spices. I might add a drained tin of beans. Stir fried veggies with tuna and ketchup is surprisingly tasty, disgusting as it might sound. Back when I was enthusiastically planning means, this was my formula

    Couscous is the easiest thing in the world to make – add boiling water and let it sit, covered for a few minutes. Another very easy meal is bits of meat and veg in a crockpot. There is also my favourite go-to recipe of ‘rice dish’ (start to on the table within half an hour).

    Whenever I get fed up cooking at home and think about ordering in a pizza, I remember that millions of people in the world don’t really have that choice and I generally get on with it.

    • says

      Whenever I get fed up cooking at home and think about ordering in a pizza, I remember that millions of people in the world don’t really have that choice and I generally get on with it.

      This is excellent.

  2. Sarah says

    That is a really great idea. I need to be more mindful about eating out and food choices. That has been a big struggle for me over the last few weeks. I had lost my mojo for cooking. Now that things are cooling off, it is beginning to come back. I am looking forward to seeing your progress.

    • says

      Summer does that to me, too. So did my husband traveling so much this summer. I got really lazy about cooking. I’m hoping this jump starts me back into good habits.

  3. says

    Love it that you are going through with this! I’ll join you in some way or the other: I have an intake appointment at a biological health center next monday to get help at eating healthier, with specific advice for my body. So, I’ll probably eat a lot more homemade stuff starting October 1.
    I have finally updated my Instagram-app and will follow you there. (If I remember to open the app regularly, that is.) :-)

  4. says

    Great idea! We eat at home most of the time anyway, but I do slip up about twice a month and go out because I am tired/lazy/unprepared. I could probably do better with that.

    I may spend the month focusing on lunch, though. Twice each week, I work 12 hour days at school – and sometimes I just don’t feel like packing a lunch. Then off to Starbucks or Panera or Wendys I go. Maybe this month I can work on planning lunches better so I don’t spend so much. :-)

    Hope it all goes well, and have fun shucking that corn!

    • says

      If our eating out was limited to our family Friday pizza night, that would be one thing. But lately there has been a lot of tired/lazy/unprepared dining on my part.

  5. says

    McDonalds was the big treat for us growing up, too. Like post- school-play or last-game-of-the-season big. And Burger King- forget it. Too pricey.

    I hope you will update here on your blog from time to time. (For us non-instagrammers).

  6. Fleur Deschamps says

    Ah but you can still eat out, Jules! :) especially since you have kids, it’s even more fun: take them on picnics :) with yummy home made sandwiches and salads, creams, cakes, fruit, and the like, or even cooked meals. You can have fun eating, on a beach, in your garden etc, every now and then. Kids love it! it breaks the routine of eating in the kitchen or dining room every day….

    • says

      Oh, yes, sorry! My post is not clear about that at all! When I say eat at home I mean eat meals prepared at home. It doesn’t mean you have to stay at home to eat them. :)

  7. Melissa says

    Yay Jules! I have not yet sat down and added up what we spend on eating out, because I am in denial and I KNOW seeing that number will give me pause – and I’m not ready to own up to it yet. We do so much better when we plan meals – my husband cooks during the week, I am the weekender – but even knowing that, we aren’t intentional about it.
    Maybe I should do the math and head into October knowing how much cash we could free up for Christmas if we’d just take the time and be grownups…

    • says

      Why do you think it took me a missed check to finally do it? Blargh. It wasn’t fun. I always had a rough idea because we are pretty regular about when we eat out (Friday nights, Sunday after church) but it was the little “emergencies” added up that…just wow.

  8. Adeline says

    Fantastic idea! I’ve been rather lazy with homecooking lately, and I can see the difference in my bank account..

    I’ll see you at #eatathome!

  9. Becca says

    Hmm. I should totally do this… but as my husband is deploying for 6 months starting in October the fact of feeding just me and my picky four year old for an entire month really freaks me out… I mean really how do you feed 1 and like half a person? (She dose not eat adult sized portions…) And the list of things she won’t eat is a mile long. ( She eats hummus and guacamole but not tomatoes or tomato sauce including pizza…) Maybe I’ll be brave enough… If I can wrap my head around it.

    • says

      You’ve got me beat with the 6 month deployment and baby! I’ve been wondering what to do since we are usually 3. My solution was to make leftovers lunch for one of us the following day. I don’t know that it would work for you? Maybe if you stuck to recipes for 2 or less people. You’ll have to definitely take advantage of your freezer to not waste food.

  10. Susan says

    I am thinking of doing a modified version for my family – one meal out on the weekend whether that be dinner or breakfast and one weeknight dinner because I have a crazy night where one kid is at practice from 4-6 across town and another has practice from 6:30-7:15. Sadly, if we limit to those 2 exceptions, we will still be eating out far less than we do now. I will miss my weekly pumpkin spice latte though! :)

      • Elizabeth says

        I’ve been doing iced coffee and homemade syrups before I leave the house to curb that urge. My iced coffee mix is 1 cup ground coffee to 4 cups water, and I just let it sit in the fridge overnight. Strain it, and I use a 1:1 ratio of iced coffee mix to milk of some sort with about a tablespoon of a syrup. Absolutely delicious, and so much more inexpensive. I love how fancy it feels (ok, that part’s a little ridiculous, but I still like it).

      • Fleur Deschamps says

        Yes, but here again you can make your favourite coffee at home and drink it somewhere else, choosing nice places and the company of a book, music or friends. It is a way to re-decover the city or countryside. I used to be ‘addicted’ to my capuccino in my favourite town cafes but because of the tragic economic situation here in Greece, like many people I’ve had to give up on them together with other little ‘luxuries’ like magazines, restaurants, going to the movies, etc. But it’s always easier to give up on something if you replace it with something else, so like many, I’ve replaced it with homemade take out coffee, pinterest and blog newsletters instead of costly magazine, TV or internet movies, borrowing more books at the library, upcycling things, shop windows browsing then ‘shopping in my wardrobe’ etc. Somehow it is FREEING not to depend on spending money to feel good, even though if I’m very upset at what honest people have to go through here because dishonest governments have messed up terribly. Thanks for your blog, Jules, it is wonderful and special, it’s always a pleasure to read your posts :)

  11. says

    I love it. We have been eating out far, far less in the last year, and now the kids get SO excited whenever we do decide to go out. They’re also likely to make healthier choices when we do. I wish I could participate along with you, and maybe I’ll do it in November, but October is my son’s birthday month, and I told him since he wasn’t having a party this year I’d take him out to any restaurant of his choosing. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have said that…

    • says

      This is what I’m hoping will happen. Also, I don’t see why you shouldn’t have said that. I think it’s a great idea! You made it a treat, just like it should be. :)

      • says

        Oh, it’s a treat all right. Problem is, this is my gourmet chef in training. His idea of a nice restaurant and most other 11-year-old’s idea of the same do not mesh. Pricey pricey…

  12. Tracy says

    I’m really hoping you’ll be posting recipes?! This is so inspiring and with recipes it could persuade me to try it as well (at some point) :)

    • says

      Oh, gosh. I’ll try, but I’m so not a fancy cook! I’m very basic, don’t like a lot of seasonings, and keep it very simple. My pasta sauce has 5 ingredients, including the tomatoes!

  13. says

    Bravo, Jules! We did a similar analysis and were shocked at how much we spent out. We got much stricter and now try to eat out only once per week… it’s amazing how much more of a cash-cushion we have at the end of the month now! I look forward to a mid-month or end-of the month update with how things went.

  14. keapdx says

    Ooohhh! good idea!

    I usually try to come up with a small, but not insignificant change at Lent. One year it was no lattes (regular coffee OK). But the big difference year was no drive through food. Not that I didn’t go to Starbucks or McD’s or … just forced myself to get out of the car. Made it seem a whole lot less anonymous and I didn’t indulge as often.

  15. says

    This is going to be good, Jules! I admit I’m relieved on your behalf that you decided not to blog each day- it could easily turn into an unnecessary stressor and I would hate for that to interfere with your momentum. Several years ago I tallied what I spent on coffee and eating out and it was enough to keep me in check all these years later. I don’t eat out that often so when I do, it does feel like a treat. I try to do food prep on the weekends or figure out a slow cooker meal because I usually don’t get home from work until 6 or 6:30. I don’t want a lot of steps between getting home and getting to eat! And since I’m just cooking for myself, I eat leftovers for lunch or freeze half of what I made to eat at a later time. Like one of those nights I end up working late.

  16. says

    I would ordinarily be all over this challenge, because its practically my life already (although I am sitting here eating take out sushi for lunch, ahem). Unfortunately in October we are doing a lot of travelling. We are staying with family for most of it, so we will still be eating in for much of it, but we have three days in Boston in a hotel where I am totally freaked at the thought of providing 3 meals a day for my allergic kid. I foresee a lot of jam sandwiches that weekend.

    I find that when my husband and I have time alone, we go out to eat. Mostly because I loathe cooking. I think we could save more money if we found other activities to do together. Or at least ate at the taco trucks instead of Ruth’s Chris. (My 10 yr wedding anniversary is this month! I cant’ not go to Ruth’s Chris, the site of our first date and every wedding anniversary since, right?)

    A tip, that you are probably already aware of, but I will mention just in case: I plan out every meal. All of them. Every Sunday morning I sit down with a chart, figure out what we are eating this week and what we need for groceries. Monday and Tuesday are nights with a main entree of meat. Wednesday is pasta night. Thursday is homemade pizza. Friday is In-N-Out for the kids ($11 for all three children), and the Mister and I eat leftovers or cereal. Weekends are usually two meals a day instead of three (large late breakfast and early dinner, like 10 and 4), and the kids know what snacks are allowed in between. Every weeknight when dinner is ready, I take some out and pack kid lunches for the next day. The remainder goes on the table–everyone gets at least one serving of main dish and then you can fill up on veggies, salad, fresh fruit and bread.

    When I deviate from the menu, or don’t plan ahead, I have a lot of trips midweek to the grocery store to pick up “oh we need this for dinner tonight.”

    I will definitely be following along! Put up some recipes if you have the time. :-)

  17. says

    Fine. I’ll do it. Stamps foot, turns back to computer.

    I was going to end the comment there, but instead, I’ve made a pot of coffee, at work, at 12:48pm, and am going to figure out a way to get an excellent cup of coffee out of that piece of pejorative. Tonight will be the night to set-about making a meal plan for October (this is not abnormal), and coming up with a way to make kouign amann all by myself (this is abnormal).

  18. Phaedra says

    I would join, but that might be like cheating somehow since this is pretty much our life all year long. I plan out meals & grocery lists (including lunches & snacks) but the one thing I did realize is that by the end of the week it’s ok to throw together random pieces of food/leftovers and call it dinner (same on weekends) instead of feeling ‘pressured’ to make a formal menu plan for 7 days. We also count on breakfast for dinner at least once every 10 days (and let’s be honest, sometimes it’s once every 4 days). It’s a life saver. All that being said, if you decided just one night per week to go out or take-out, it’s STILL money-saving. :) I know you have your freezer meals book & any prep that can be done on the least busiest day of the week? Yeah. Do that. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is more sanity saving then walking in the door after school/work/activity and not having meltdowns (hers) & freak outs (mine) during what I refer to as The Witching Hour. Pulling ingredients out that can be a meal in 15minutes? Priceless. I can’t wait to hear about your adventure! *and I’m glad you decided not to blog & are giving yourself that kindness! Good call.

  19. says

    We’re pretty good about sitting down on a Saturday morning before the big grocery shop and planning out the meals for the upcoming week. But gosh it’s hard some nights to find the motivation to cook fresh, healthy meals even though the ingredients are sitting in the fridge. We tend to do pizza or Asian take out on a Friday night and maybe a lunch out on Saturday if we’re out and about. We got complacent about the costs of eating out. We’re not big Starbucks drinkers and hubby takes his own lunch to work most days. But then bam! a Friday night dinner in somewhere like Legal Sea Foods (not super fancy but nice enough for a treat) with a glass of wine and a beer is $100+! They’ve been knocked on the head. It adds up so quickly. Watching this one with interest.

  20. says

    Yep, I’m going to join you, although — as my husband points out every time I bring this up — we’d be doing well to complete a 7 day Eat At Home. Hm. Man has a point. But I’m right there with you! I can’t bear to add up how much we spend eating out, and I feel like we already eat at home a lot. But when I was growing up, we had takeout every Friday night; it’s a tradition I have carried over. Not that bad, right? Oh…wait. We also eat out on Sunday afternoon. And sometimes Saturday night, and usually breakfast on the weekends. And the occasional lunch (which is to say: once or twice a week.) Yeah, this is why I can’t bear to look at the truth. It should be an interesting month, no? Here’s to eating at home!

  21. Hazel says

    I guess it’s down to availability, isn’t it? I live in a fairly rural English village (not remote- I’m within the commuter belt for London and Birmingham) and we get no take away food deliveries here. There is a fish and chip van at the end of our road once a week, but otherwise if I want to eat out or get a takeaway I have to drive to the next big village or to the nearest town. By the time I’ve got the kids in the car, driven there, parked, got the food and come home again, I might as well have cooked…

    I work in another village, so no coffee shop- I can’t remember the last time I had coffee out other than when we were on holiday.There is a drive through McD’s in the town, but I’ve never used it.( I last went to a McDonalds in 1992.) The kids have been once or twice, but it’s not somewhere we go as a family.

    Perhaps if I lived in a town or city I’d have got into the habit of using the convenience. We do eat out sometimes, but usually in a local pub or restaurant. I find more and more though, that I eat out and think that I could have made nicer/healthier/tastier at home for less money. I’m a competent cook, not gourmet, but I can do better than defrost and reheat something from the catering suppliers…

    (I know you’re all thinking this is because I live in England! We do have some good places to eat out :-) )

  22. says

    Yay, Jules! I’ve never done a whole month with no eating out. I’m a little scared to even consider it, honestly, which is funny, because we don’t really rely on it (i.e. we’re not usually eating out in a pinch, we’re eating out because it’s how we treat ourselves). We almost never eat out during the week, because we get home so late that I feel like we just wouldn’t really enjoy it much and that makes it not worth it to me. But during the weekends? I think we’re eating at least one meal a day out, or hitting up a happy hour.

    I’ll be following along on Instagram, of course! Excited to see how it goes. Oh, and pizza is the BEST budget meal planning crutch for me. So cheap, so simple (even when making your own dough) and so easy to make ahead of time.

  23. says

    I’m in. I’ve started already – no time like the present. Will see how I go. I have taken my Instagram off private for the first time ever so that I can participate in this, since I really want the accountability/feeling like people are watching. I’m wondering if I will regret making my pictures public!

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